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Religious Freedom: Only for Christians?

Bryant in Kansas, responding to a couple of recent stories that touched on religion, says: “I’ve grown weary of your newsletter, and your anti-Christian bent. I always wonder why anything ‘Christian’ gets blasted and not any other religion? Don’t tell me that it’s because Christians are so narrow minded. I won’t buy into that one.”

Bryant, Christians, as a whole, aren’t narrow-minded, so it must just be you.

It does blow me away when I write about one religion’s dumb doings (such as a recent article about Muslim men being counseled to beat their women “gently”) and that‘s “funny” to fundamental Christians, but when I write another article about Christians doing something stupid, suddenly you forget about those earlier stories and accuse me of being “anti-Christian”.

Of course I’m not “anti-Christian,” Bryant: I’m anti-idiot and anti-hypocrite. If that bothers you, it only makes me wonder which one of those you are. And if others wonder what kind of story set Bryant off, please spend a few minutes reading my passionate arguments for true religious freedom — and tell me if you think that makes me “anti” any religion.

Update

The above brought quite a few responses. But before I get to those, I want to say this: I think people calling someone “anti-Christian” is just as bad as accusing someone of being anti-Semitic. I think it’s a very serious thing to do, since it implies I work against their religious freedoms. In fact, I work for true religious freedom.

But people seem to feel free to make such outrageous accusations and point fingers at the drop of a hat. And why are they accusing me of being anti-Christian? Because I passionately argued for religious freedom in this country — something our Constitution is supposed to have already guaranteed, something Christians have benefited from to a great extent, yet some would turn around and deny the very same right to others. I called that hypocritical, and I challenged anyone to read my argument for this incredible Constitutional freedom and let me know if they thought I was “anti” any religion. No surprise: no one did.

Quite frankly, I get angry at such charges, and sometimes that anger shows. A few people think I overreact. That is, in part, because I excerpt the letters I respond to, and you haven’t seen all the back-and-forth that might have taken place. And that is, in part, because they’re not the ones being accused of bigotry for taking an egalitarian stand.

A couple of readers in fact expressed dismay at my vocal objections to those charges — that is, how I worded my reaction to “Bryant in Kansas”. (E.g., Bill in Texas: “I enjoy THIS IS TRUE, but I’m dismayed at your response to Bryant in Kansas. Not because of the subject, but at your unprofessional and antagonistic attitude when someone writes you with their own thoughts.” Well, Bill, if Bryant had “thought,” it wouldn’t have been a problem. As for my professionalism, I’m a professional ranter; that’s why people read True!) No matter how I approach such people, someone will be bothered. So be it; when people make vile, unjust and baseless accusations, I think that anger is a natural reaction.

So why do I publish such letters in the first place? Because I want readers to KNOW about the crap I get for sticking up for people’s rights. And, quite frankly, that’s what True is all about: showing just how stupid some people can be. (“What? He wants them dang foreigners to have the same rights as us Americans? Why, he must be an anti-Christian!”) As I’ve said in the past, it’s just fine if I make fun of something a cop does, yet I’m not labeled “anti-police.” It’s great if I make fun of something a stupid truck driver does, yet I’m not labeled “anti-highway transportation.” People think it’s just lovely when I rant against idiotic school administrators, yet no one thinks I’m out to stamp out education. Of course, to be fair, most people don’t think I’m anti-religion, certainly not the hundreds of rabbis, priests, ministers and other clergy of many denominations that read True every week.

I did, of course, get lots of support for how I worded that reaction — from Christians and “others” alike. Such as Darren in Missouri: “I, personally, am a born-again Christian. In fact, I work for a Christian radio station so I have to be very careful what it is that I talk about on the air. You’re right on the money: it’s not that you’re bashing Christians, you’re bashing idiots!! And, unfortunately, idiots worship in all religions and denominations. I think anyone (at least the intelligent among us) can appreciate it if the absurdity of a situation is pointed out — regardless of the religious overtones. Thanks for sending out a great service, and God bless!!!” (Don’t forget the hypocrites, Darren! Frankly, I think they’re worse than idiots because they should know better.)

Ken in New Hampshire: “I’d like to suggest that Bryant is not a hypocrite nor quite an idiot but rather someone just smart enough to realize that his faith is not justified.” Good point. I guess if he was secure in his faith, he wouldn’t feel so threatened, would he? It’s like the people who feel a need to prove things about their religions. If there was proof, they wouldn’t need faith, now would they?!

Which brings me to Gayle in Scotland: “I’m not sure if you’ve said, or not, and I’m really not sure. Are you, yourself, a Christian? Or does that really matter?” Gayle, indeed I’m glad that it’s unclear, because it doesn’t matter — it isn’t, and shouldn’t be, an issue here. I am secure in my beliefs, so I not only don’t feel a need to justify them, I feel no need to “convert” someone else from their beliefs, even if I don’t agree with them (since what business is it of mine?!) It leaves me able, when I see someone doing something stupid in the news, to report on their stupidity no matter whether they are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Atheist or other, and whether they’re a cop, a truck driver, an education commissioner, or anything else. It’s what I do, and it’s why the vast majority of readers subscribe!

So, am I really that angry? Heck no! Obviously I don’t like people calling me a bigot, but I laugh at the stupidity of that more than fume at it. Just as most readers enjoy reading these back-and-forths. So take it for what it is: part of the entertaining look at people being stupid — just the same as the rest of This is True!

8 Responses to Religious Freedom: Only for Christians?

  1. Steve Gentry, Syracuse April 9, 2007 at 2:44 pm #

    What bothers me about most religions is that they insist that theirs is the only “true” way and all others are going to Hell. No, I’m not Atheist, far from it. But even members of my own religion insist I’m damned for Eternity since I don’t belong to one particular church. I agree with you about the Hypocrites. When one of them quotes from the Bible as justification, I can usually find another quote to refute them. Their defense? Shut my dirty mouth because I “obviously” don’t understand the Bible as well as they do.

    Just sign me as a member of the Church of the Holy Moly Are Some of You Really From Planet Earth?

  2. Steve, Syracuse April 9, 2007 at 4:54 pm #

    Give em Hell. And then give em a Get Out of Hell Free card. I like religious jokes, but some some of them don’t have a sense of humor.

  3. Laura, Columbus OH April 10, 2007 at 1:05 am #

    I strongly believe that almost every religion goes down the tubes when it gets ‘organized’. Once a religion has a set of rules that you have to follow, it starts getting messy and you start having problems. Why do you think that there are so many sects in Judaism, Islam and Christianity? (I don’t know enough about Taoism, Buddism, Shitoism, Paganism and the other religions to say whether or not they have sects.) Someone didn’t agree with the rules or the way the religion was interpreted, so they went off to form their own branch. And then the branches start fighting with each other and you have feuds and different interpretations of the holy book or books and then things get even messier…

    That’s why these people who write you feel that they have the right to tell you that you’re anti-Christian or anti-whatever; you’re not adhering to the rules that they feel are ‘correct’, so you’re wrong and going to hell or wherever for it.

    It’s really upsetting that this is the only way that these people can communicate; especially since, at the core, most of the religions hold the same belief, regardless of how they say it. ‘An it harm none, do what thou wilt’ in Pagan terms; in Christian ones: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. (www.religioustolerance.org/reciproc.htm is a cool website that shows this for a whole slew of religions.)

    It seems to me that religion was meant to help people behave their best towards others by promising either a reward now or a reward after death. Unfortunately, people who don’t want to acknowledge the worth of others twist religion to exclude those they don’t like and to justify their poor treatment of others, sometimes to the point of glorifying and justifying murder. And for something that says you should treat everyone else as if they were you, which basically promotes the intention of helping us to be better people, that’s a pretty sad result.

  4. Ron, East Moline, IL April 11, 2007 at 7:26 pm #

    I decided about ten years ago that every religion I ever studied was ludicrous in one way or another. So, in keeping with that thought, I created my own religion. My deity is Evelyn, a 300 foot tall ebony woman with six breasts. It works out great when proselytizers accost me with that old saw “Have you accepted Jesus as your Lord…etc.” I just answer, “Nope, I worship Evelyn, and since she is 300 foot tall, she can kick Jesus’ butt!”

    The fact is, I am an atheist, but ‘being’ an Evelynist makes for some great conversation, and you’d be surprised the number of fundamentalist Christians who will just walk away with no argument. Which is exactly how I want it.

  5. Jo, Albuquerque, New Mexico April 13, 2007 at 8:31 am #

    It is absolutely extraordinary how frightened people of all religions are of beings they have never heard and never seen. It is also amazing that religious adherents believe that the leaders of the sects know more about the diety than they themselves do, not unless they’ve personally discussed things with the diety they don’t!

    Believe in a diety or not, we all think, in one way or another, that there is something more powerful than we who is responsible for life and the Universe and what not. I severely doubt that anyone has ever seen it/him/her – at least not since before the coming of the redeemer, whatever the name/sex/religion of said redeemer.

  6. Mike from Dallas April 16, 2007 at 1:56 pm #

    When I was a teenager, some old biddy was telling me that all non-Christians were going to Hell. And most Christians, too, really.

    In fact, as I pursued it, she informed me that the only people who were going to Heaven were members of the Church of the Nazarene. And not even all of them. They had to belong to the CORRECT Church of the Nazarene.

    Finally, it boiled down that the ONLY way to get to Heaven was to belong to the Church of the Nazarene on Altama Avenue. If you had the bad luck to be born anywhere else, well, I guess God says it sucks to be them.

  7. Barbara in Utah May 9, 2007 at 12:41 pm #

    It amazes me that people who accept the Bible as God’s Word can then ignore the verses of God’s word that command us to refrain from judging, because He reserves that right exclusively to Himself. Usurping God’s authority as the ultimate Judge of all mankind is a sin, right?

    Seems to me that the person who claims to know the Will and Word of God should honor it in all respects, especially where it pertains to post-mortal destinations for other people. I really think God’s smart enough to make those judgments for himself.

  8. Neil, Manchester, UK June 9, 2007 at 4:56 pm #

    I can see you’re not anti-Christian. If I hadn’t realised that before, the recent TRUE item about the mormon girl would have made me realised it. However, I can’t agree with some of your comments about faith:

    I am secure in my beliefs, so I not only don’t feel a need to justify them, I feel no need to “convert” someone else from their beliefs, even if I don’t agree with them

    I am secure in my beliefs. The fact that my beliefs tell me something important about the world, which makes a difference, means that I have a duty to show it to others (and that I should listen to others when they fulful their duty to promote what they believe). Obviously, if I offend them in the process then I do no one any good.

    It’s like the people who feel a need to prove things about their religions. If there was proof, they wouldn’t need faith, now would they?!

    Do you mean prove things about their religions, such as the fact that they’re not self-contradictory nonsense? If so, then I certainly feel the need to show that to others, because it makes a difference to how they view the truth of what I’m living by. If you mean prove the truth of the religion, then you’re right, faith wouldn’t be appropriate.

    You’re a professional ranter. You perform a valuable service by constantly pointing out hypocrisy, the danger of zero tolerance, and other such things, and trying to prove the importance of acting against them. That doesn’t mean you’re insecure in your beliefs about them, does it?

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